I have been managing projects and businesses for a few years. I was put in charge of my first work crew when I was 17 years old and, believe me, I made lots of mistakes. The most important thing I have learned over the past 35 years is “s#*t happens.” How you deal with it efficiently, logically, and professionally will separate the “Pro” from the “Joe.” A book that helped me early in my career was “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff” by Richard Carlson.
When something goes wrong; damaged products, delayed delivery, missed communication, a key staff member leaves or is sick… the list goes on! There is no sense getting mad, stomping your feet, and yelling. Being calm and rational is critical to managing every challenge, big or small. It will also gain you respect and confidence from those you are leading and mentoring. When there are challenges in business and life, clients, employees, and colleagues appreciate knowing that the leader can handle the situation with composure and confidence and this allows everyone to remain calm and productive. If you do lose your composure, – it can and will happen – it’s important to quickly recognize this and sincerely apologize for your poor reaction. The people around you will appreciate it, just don’t make it a habit, or you will lose their respect because nobody enjoys working with a hot head.
Let’s be honest, most clients are very accepting and understanding when they are simply told the truth about a situation and explained how the situation will be rectified. If there was a mess up, own it, take responsibility, and fix it, regardless of the cost. Taking responsibility and communicating with the client as soon as the issue is known demonstrates professionalism and helps build trust in the relationship. If the client is not understanding or is irrational, at least you have done your best and now you may wish to rethink your clientele. It is okay to fire a client but that’s a topic for another time!
Something to always remember when “s#*t happens” is it is in the past. Immediately focus on the solution instead of the issue itself or finding someone to blame. Being solution-oriented will keep everyone around you focused on the ultimate goal which is the success of the project and a happy client. Assigning blame does not provide solutions; as a matter of fact, it may make the situation worse as people are less likely to participate in the solution if they are blamed. Additionally, the next time a problem occurs, they may be less likely to identify it, in fear being blamed. Rather than becoming part of the solution, they may try to hide the problem, and this could cause more serious issues. With that being said, once the situation is addressed and resolved, then investigate what went wrong and make corrections. Most people do not intentionally screw up or make mistakes so remember that before you blow up on someone.
Another thing I have learned from years of managing people, projects, and also coaching kid’s sports: most people already know when they have messed up and telling them or calling them out often does not lead to improvement. Working with them to get better or resolving the issue is a much better use of your time and energy. In my experience when something gets messed up there is a reason beyond human error. Often, the reason is a process or communication issue which can always be resolved. In some cases, the person doing the job isn’t the right person, then you can make a change, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Often that person can be utilized in another role or with modified duties.
I have found that when everything is going well, very little is learned, however, when the s#*t does hit the fan, the learning experience begins, and it can be a steep learning curve. A good example of this is when a company is steady but not too busy. When things are steady, many challenges can be managed without changing the process. However, when a company is busy, all the little process issues become magnified, and improvements must be made to manage this growth. This is a natural progression, therefore, embrace it, work with it, don’t get mad or stressed, fix it, make it better, this is what entrepreneurs and managers do. Get excited and energized that you have a purpose, then use all your talents, experience, and resources to learn and grow.
I hope someone will find the above message helpful, especially if you are going through the fire of growth and change. Most of the time, experience is the best teacher, and you must go through the challenges to learn from them.
Until we see each other, face to face, I hope you enjoy your journey.
by Dan Monk